Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is setting up new state-run checkpoints to inspect trucks for human-trafficking operations in response to the deaths of 53 migrants inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio this week.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) “will create and implement a checkpoint strategy beginning immediately where they will begin targeting trucks like the one that was used where these people perished,” Abbott said during a news conference Wednesday in the border city of Eagle Pass.
Abbott declined to say where the new checkpoints will be, saying he wanted to “surprise the cartels and the smugglers.”
The tractor-trailer discovered Monday in San Antonio is believed to have been part of a failed human-smuggling operation. Officials said there were as many as 67 migrants inside the trailer. There are now 53 confirmed deaths. Authorities said there appeared to be neither water nor air conditioning in the trailer when the bodies and the survivors were found.
Four people were arrested and charged Wednesday by Homeland Security Investigations for their alleged involvement in the case, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, of Pasadena, Texas, was arrested on criminal charges related to alleged involvement in human smuggling resulting in death. Christian Martinez, 28, of Palestine, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants resulting in death.
Two Mexican citizens, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, were also arrested.
The new checkpoints in Texas would be along smuggling corridors that connect ports of entry from Mexico to major cities like San Antonio and Houston, according to Steve McGraw, the director of DPS.
It’s unclear how different the new checkpoints would be from the expanded commercial vehicle inspections that Abbott ordered for about 10 days in April that were also aimed at slowing migrant crossings.
The checkpoints launched by Abbott in April included truck inspections at 20 international crossing locations throughout Texas, including some of the busiest trade bridges in the country, in Laredo and Pharr.
Abbott’s state-run inspections were in addition to those conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Abbott’s April inspection spree eventually cost several Texas border bridges hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade, trade experts said. He finally ended the increased truck checks when several Mexican governors made commitments to better secure their side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
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